How to Create Amazing Webinars That Grow Your Business – Steve Dotto

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Steve Dotto

Webinars are a great way to grow and empower your community. When done creatively, they can also drive different revenue streams for your business. The very interactive nature of a webinar lends itself to being a fast track to building trust, engagement, and community– the building blocks for growing your business.

 

Rich: He is Canada’s most respected geek. For over 15 years, as host and executive producer of Dotto Tech, a nationally syndicated TV show, he entertained and educated millions of Canadians on all aspects of technology.

He has a passion for understanding the social impact of technology. A very popular keynote speaker, he is in demand addressing audiences on the changes technology is bringing to the workplace, and the profound impact these changes are having on our society. He also was onstage at The Agents of Change!

His message is equally valuable to the workplace, parents, and educators, he speaks to the opportunities and challenges represented by our social networks, and he challenges us to understand our responsibilities in this new environment.

YouTube is his network of choice, where he serves 2 communities, a traditional “How To and Productivity” stream, which follows his TV tradition, and a focus on encouraging GenX and Baby Boomers to engage and provide leadership in the online world.

He has one mission, to help us master our technology – at home, at school, or at work – his message….we need to be in charge of our technology, we each need to discover our inner geek! Please welcome Steve Dotto. Steve, welcome to the show.

Steve: Good to be here Rich, nice to talk to you again.

Rich: It’s always a pleasure to reconnect with you, sir. I follow your exploits, and we were talking a little bit before, you should add to your bio that you also once did a thousand burpees for charity.

Steve: Yeah, that was fun. I don’t know how you top that.

Rich: A thousand and one, I guess.

Steve: Actually I always do an extra, I did a thousand and one.

Rich: It was going to be like Mr. 3000 where they go back and check and say, “Oh, you’re actually short by one, we’re not going to give you credit”.

Steve: That would be terrible. We accounted for each and every burpee.

Rich: Good. I can imagine somebody there with one of those little tickers that ticks off every single one.

Steve: Yeah, pretty much.

Rich: So you’ve been a big fan of webinars and a proponent of webinars for quite some time. Why do you feel like that’s such a successful platform?

Steve: Well I was drawn to webinars when I first started converting from traditional broadcast media into the online space, because webinars are really just like doing live TV or radio shows. Except you don’t have program managers and networks to deal with, you just have direct access to your community.

To me it was just liberating to see how much engagement we could create and what we could deliver using webinar tools. And as I started to explore the space, I recognized the fact that most of the people that are teaching us how to do webinars were showing you how to do slideshows, and they weren’t really looking at all of the features that you could bring to a webinar. But they also weren’t looking at it with a broadcaster’s eye.

As soon as I looked at the tool – being trained in traditional broadcasting and radio – I saw some huge potential. And every time that I created a webinar I treated it as a TV or radio show, a live broadcast. And I think if you look at it from that perspective then you can’t help but say this is an amazing medium that has so much potential.

So honoring the technology that way – maybe I look at it with rosier glasses than the regular person – but that’s the reason that I like the technology of webinars so much. But on the other side, I don’t think there’s anything we have in our social space that is as fast tracked to engagement as webinars. 

The fact that you do a live webinar with a community where you answer questions honestly, you engage with them, they get to hear your voice, if you have video included they get to see your inflection and how you react. And in this world where there is so much polished and mistrust, through the fact that everything is pre-packaged for us and everything is presented just the way that people want.

This whole nature on webinars I think leads to a real fast track to trust and engagement and community building. For me it’s probably the most important tool that I’ve used to grow my online business.

Rich: It’s so funny that you say that, because for years when I put into presentations about what I’m doing for a presentation about social media, I say in my mind there’s 2 types of social media. There’s social media platforms and there’s social media networks. And whenever I go through my list of what I consider to be a social media platform – things like YouTube, blogging and Slideshare – I always include webinars. People are like, webinars are not social media. But in my mind they’re about as social as you can get if you’re doing them right.

So it’s good to hear from you that you think that people are not maybe thinking about webinars in the right way.

Steve: Yeah. And I think a little of the bloom is off the rose for webinars because they’re not the favorite kid on the block anymore. Everybody’s gotten this passion for livestreaming, which is fine. Live streaming is exciting, live streaming is sexy. Live streaming has got some benefits to social marketers, but it’s also a really labor intensive platform. And I know that’s exactly the opposite of what people think, and allow me to explain this to you.

If we look at live streaming, live streaming only has value while the live stream is going.  You’re trading hours for eyeballs, because nobody wants to watch a replay of a livestream. And that’s number one.

Number two is, you’re attracting people to the livestream through the platforms that you’re talking. So they’re not your community that’s coming to see a livestream. They’re YouTube’s and Facebook’s and Instagram’s communities that’s coming to it. You’re just renting that period of time. All you’re doing is giving away that content. You’ve got no way to re-engage those people, or very limited opportunity to re-engage. And you’ve got no control over the process.

And if for some reason YouTube or Facebook or Instagram decides to cancel your account or you mess up somehow, you’ll be instantly disenfranchised from that entire community. Whereas webinars – as old school as they are – are your community. You are registering people for your webinar, and they attend your webinar, and they’re on your platform. Your platform will only kick you out if you stop paying the bill for your platform.

So for me, even though it doesn’t have the sex appeal of live streaming, it’s far more business proper. It’s good business to be building your own network rather than renting space in somebody else’s.

Rich: Alright. So Steve, if you’re looking at webinars with the broadcaster’s view, and you’re seeing that people are not taking advantage of this. I almost envision like when people started television and all they were doing was basically radio with visuals. They just didn’t have that mentality of a completely new platform. So you’re coming at it and you’re seeing it with a totally new eye.

So on one hand I’m hearing that we’re not using webinars to their full extent, but on another we’re hearing how so many people are drawn to live video and you’re saying that’s not all that either. There’s something about webinars. What is that middle ground? How are you doing webinars that make it engaging with the eye of a broadcaster that maybe we’re not getting to if we’re used to just putting together a slide deck to show on a webinar?

Steve: Great question. And really you’ve kind of articulated the complexity in my argument, which is, I’m poo pooing live streaming to a certain extent. Which I really don’t. I think live streaming is still a very vibrant medium, but I think webinars are the ultimate live stream. I think we have to look at them in the same vein as we look at other live streaming because it is live and engaging.

So here are the things I think people should be looking at when doing webinars. First of all a webinar has the ability – as far as I’m concerned – the energy of a webinar comes from the chat. So when you look at different webinar platforms, just out of curiosity, what platform so you use when you deliver a webinar? 

Rich: I’ve been using GoToWebinar, mostly just because I’ve always used it, so it’s a little bit of habit.

Steve: GoToWebinaris a great example. So I’m going to kind of sidebar before I loop back to the question that you originally asked. But the sidebar is, each webinar tool has grown out of another tool. GoToWebinar is grown out of Meeting Tools where people want to deliver slideshow presentations primarily, back in its genesis. Slideshow presentations where everybody pays 100% attention to the speaker. It was often like a CEO delivering a slideshow to his team.

So GoToWebinar does a few things which I disagree with. I don’t like the fact that they shut down chat. You can’t see other participants chatting while the webinar is going on. So from my perspective that really limits the energy that a webinar is going to have. Because if you think about the excitement of your event – when we’re on stage with you in your live event – a big part of the reason those events are so successful is as a speaker makes a comment on stage, the audience reacts. They nod in agreement, they lean forward, they laugh, they nod their heads, they look at each other and smile, or you hear dissent. But that live, visceral nature of the audience during a live talk create tremendous value, and community, and energy in the moment.

I want to create that same energy in a webinar. So if I can’t have chat, then I don’t have the ability for other audience members to know how the points are landing with other members of the community that are online with you. So I always want wide open chat and I want to see it flying by and I want to see people saying, “yes” or “no”, or LOL, or posting emoji’s if they have the opportunity. That creates tremendous energy at a webinar. So that’s #1.

I forgot what the original question was. 

Rich: How do we find that middle ground between…well there’s obviously things we’re missing, right? Because we’re not coming at it from a broadcaster’s view, and yet live video doesn’t seem to be the right format in your opinion either, you like some of the old school stuff. So what does that middle ground look like?

Steve: That middle ground is finding engagement. So a tool like GoToWebinar, while it does a lot of the administrative things that you want with capturing email addresses, and allowing you to register people, and is a very reliable delivery platform where you can give a nice controlled webinar. It’s too staid, in my opinion to, for you to really grow a vibrant community on. And I don’t think that we should go for middle ground. I think we should go for an outstanding experience for people that are participating in a webinar or a livestream, for that matter.

Do you do Facebook Live or any of those sorts of things?

Rich: I will occasionally use something like that. Live video has never been my milieu, if you will.

Steve: Well you know how you can do is using a straight up tool like Facebook’s own Live broadcast, or you can also use a third party tool like Ecamm’ssolution. And with Ecamm’s solution you can roll in graphics, you can lay graphics over top, you can even incorporate b-roll video and those sorts of things. So you can add multiple additional elements to that live stream.

Regardless of if you’re doing a webinar or a livestream, you want to take advantage of as many of those media types as you can to make it as engaging as possible. So the type of webinar that I like to deliver is called a “hybrid webinar”. A “hybrid webinar” is a combination of live and pre-recorded. And I do a weekly webinar, I’ve been testing this out for well over a year.

For 18 months now we’ve been doing a weekly webinar every week called, Webinar Wednesday. It’s a new, live, tutorial webinar, and that’s a lot of work. But I make it a lot more doable by the fact that I don’t try and deliver the meat of the content live, the demo. If I’m showing people how to use Google Calendar more effectively, I don’t try and do that live in the webinar. Because first of all, the screens look terrible when you’re sharing webinar screens. Secondly, you tend to stumble a little in a demo and it takes a lot more time to demonstrate a product live.

So what I do is I pre-record the heart of the demo when I’m really into the tutorial part, and I use a screen casting tool to record that. And then I edit it down and I make it far more appealing. I zoom in on the screen so it’s very clear. I cut out any mistakes that I made, I tighten it up, and I typically broadcast about a 20 minute video in the middle of my live webinar. Now that allows me and my audience to then also jump into chat and engage with them in chat during that moment.

Rich: Oh Steve that’s so brilliant. I love it.

Steve: And here’s what it does, it respects your audience and it respects your content. They get that. First of all it respects your audience because you’re increasing the information density of the time. If I’m asking you to spend 45 minutes in a webinar, that’s 45 minutes that I’m taking out of your day. I better deliver to you and not just ramble on. So it behooves me to prepare the content as clearly as I can to deliver to you. And then that way there, by answering low hanging fruit questions in chat, you increase the information density. And at the end when the pre-record is finished, you don’t have to answer these questions, you can answer all of the more difficult questions that you have to kind of expound on. And people have gotten that much more value out of the moment.

And also, the energy created by being in the chat. You get to fool around with them a little bit and have some fun and have a few laughs in the chat as well. And so overall – as far as I’m concerned – it makes it an event that people look forward to because they feel that they’re kind of there with you.

Now there’s only a few tools that you can use that will allow you to do this kind of hybrid webinar. For example, Webinar Gem, Demio– I just did a deep dive into Demio. So when I look at a webinar platform, I want one that’s built more as a presentation platform as opposed to a corporate platform. So Zoomis another one, even though it’s an excellent platform, you can’t embed. If you do deliver video in Zoom, you have to upload it from your desktop live. Whereas the versions that we use and I pre-record the video, I upload it to a service like YouTube or some other streaming service, and then I embed it and it streams from that service. So you get high quality video to stream through.

Rich: If we go to Zoom or GoToWebinar, we could show video that’s playing on our computer, but you’re saying the quality is so much better when you’re using a tool like Webinar Jam or Demio.

Steve: Yes. And actually we’ll do a quick plug for one of my products.It’s a free course that I have called, Webinar Palooza, where I test out all of the different webinar platforms. We’ll give a link at the end, but if people are interested in looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each of the webinar platforms, I go through them all in Webinar Palooza. And next month I’m doing a deep dive into Big Marker, which I think is just an outstanding webinar platform.

So I spend a full month delivering all my webinars with that tool, and then I talk about the strengths and weaknesses of it. So people can get a real feel for how they all work.

But the challenge with Zoom for this – and I think GoToWebinar now allows you to upload videos and stream them to YouTube – but here’s the issue, the encoding has to happen on the computer. Whereas if you upload a video to a service, the video is uploaded in high definition, it’s encoded and packaged by that service, and then streamed from that service so you can get YouTube quality playback. Which is outstanding.

Whereas if you have to compress the video at source from your computer, then the stream has to be compressed, uploaded, and it doesn’t have time to be optimized by the server before it’s sent out. So the quality of video that you’re sending is less at that point. You could do it, but it’s not optimal.

I love Zoom as a platform, I think it’s an outstanding meeting tool and to interact with webinars it’s a really nice tool. But the bottom line is they just don’t get it, and I’ve had conversations with the product team and they just have no intention of adding it. So I recommend it for coaches and other people, it’s a good tool but not for the type of webinar that I like to deliver.

Rich: I just think the whole approach is really smart because you’re obviously a broadcaster and I occasionally appear on local TV as the “the guru”, and of course they record my segments. But then they do intros and outros that are either live or recorded at another time, but it gives it that kind of a broadcast level feel. So I think people are used to that sort of interaction, and the fact that you can kind of get offstage while you’re still onstage and sit next to people and talk to them virtually, I think is just a brilliant way of engaging.  

Steve: Thanks, I do like it. Now the danger is that people say, “Hey, this is pre-recorded”, and there’s a stigma to pre-recorded webinars. Now one of the issues and the biggest thing that bothers me about the entire webinar space, is people who deliver full webinars where they try and make the webinar look live, when in fact it’s pre-recorded.

We have technology in place now where I can create a webinar and you can’t tell if it’s live or not. It’s that good. So I can pre-record it, I can use it evergreen, and you would see chat happening, you’d see me interacting with the audience and community. It’s a manipulated fake webinar that you believe is live, and I can’t stand that concept. Because what kind of relationship do we have if the first words out of my mouth to you are a lie?

So I always teach my students do not do fake webinars. I don’t mind pre-recorded webinars, but full disclosure right up top and say, “This webinar was recorded this date”, so that people know they’re watching something that was pre-recorded. I think it’s essential and I think it undermines the trust for the community. And I experienced that firsthand when I deliver my webinars with the pre-recorded segment, because somebody is always asking, “Is this live?” And I’m always in chat saying, “Yes it’s live. But this part is recorded. I’ll be back live in a few minutes.”

Rich: And hopefully people understand that. Are there other tools that you recommend we have in our toolkit when it comes to webinars besides the platform? Is there some additional things that you ever use?

Steve: Well whatever webinar platform you choose has to integrate with your CRM in some kind of efficient way. Because the bottom line is, if we’re delivering webinars for the social marketing community – which I imagine most of our audience here today is – you’re looking at webinars to grow or empower your community somehow. But you have to have a way of reaching back out to them and communicating with them. And the webinar is a tool in your overall sales funnel at some point. I mean, you have to do business with people somewhere within this setup.

So finding a way for the webinars to interface correctly with your CRM is crucial. You don’t see webinar tools like GoToWebinar, Demio, and to a certain extent one I’m looking at right now Blue Jeans, they’ve all got really nice native API integration with Infusionsoftand Ontraport, and those sorts of tools. So making sure that you’ve got a mature sales funnel or follow up funnel put together.

If you use webinars properly, you can use them in a lot of creative ways. Do we have time for me to share two for business?

Rich: Sure, that would be great.

Steve: So there’s two ways I make money off my webinars – actual cash in PayPal this week. So I use the webinars, I deliver them free, but then I do two things with the webinars. On every week’s webinar I give it for free, I don’t use it as a loss leader, I don’t tease, “If you want to know more about this topic you have to take my course”, I don’t do any of those sorts of things. I give away all the information that I’m promising for free. But I only leave it live and I allow them to watch replays. I leave it live and I actually post it to YouTube live for 48 hours.

After 48 hours I pull the webinar from YouTube. I say you can see the webinar for free for 48 hours, and then I’m pulling it down. When I pull it down I archive it in my Webinar Wednesday archives. We’ve got like 65-70 webinars now that are all tutorial webinars. I host them in a LMS – a Learning Management System – but then what happens is I tell anybody is you want access to all of those webinars, you have to sign up for my Patreon. And we have a community on Patreon – that’s our channel – and one of the perks they have is access to this great library of tutorial webinars that I’ve built. So that alone pays for my entire staff. We rolled that out in the space of a year and we have around 800 patrons, and it’s brining in somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000-$6,000 a month of direct revenue into Dotto Tech every month.

Rich: That is fantastic.

Steve: And it works because it’s fair. We ask a very small contribution and they feel like they’re part of the community rather than buying a product. That’s one.

Model two is, what I’ve got in webinar, which I think has really got legs as far as value. For instance I did a webinar a couple weeks ago teaching people 7 ways to make money on YouTube. I’m always from the philosophy that people will spend money to make money. So if I’ve got a webinar like that I say, “I really shouldn’t be giving this one away for free, I should be selling it.” And what I do in that particular case is I sell it as a paid webinar, and all of these tools will allow you to collect revenue attached to it. I think we charged $49 for the webinar. We delivered the webinar and then as soon as the webinar was over, I took the recording of the webinar, I packaged it up, added some extra video pieces – descriptions based on the questions people asked me during the webinar – to fill out the value of the module itself. And then I published it as an online course. A “mini course” we called it. And it continues to sell for me now even 2 months afterwards, it’s selling quite well.

So that’s a way that you can take webinars and you can use them at the heart of a couple of different revenue options. Because at the end of the day, getting email addresses is great, but getting dollars in your bank account is better.

Rich: Yes, you’re just skipping right to the punchline with that one. Well those are two very creative ways. I’m absolutely loving that. You mentioned you’ve got these online courses, tell us about those and tell us where we can find more about you online.

Steve: Well I’m @DottoTech on every social platform, and Dotto Tech is on my website where I post 3-4 videos a week which are tutorial videos as well as my weekly webinar. So you can join us there. I also do a vlog on my YouTube channel, and another vlog which is kind of a passion project which is talking about baby boomers over generations and our place in this digital media universe. I’ve been encouraging the other people of my vintage to be a little more interested in the online space.

We’ve got a variety of free courses including one called, The Anatomy of a Successful Webinar, where I walk you through our entire webinar process. And that’s also where you can put a sign up for Webinar Palooza, which is I think the best place online to find descriptions on the popular webinar platforms without any sales attached to it, just which one is going to work for you, and where I take deep dives into the different webinar platforms. So that would be the place to go for that, and that’s dottotechu.thinkific.com.

Rich: I think people need to check the links in the show notes for sure, because I know that our amazing transcriptionist, Jen Scholz, is going to take care of that for you. We’ll have a link out there and if you are interested in checking out all those webinar platforms that Steve pointed out and all the links that he shared with us, be sure to go check out the show notes.

Steve, this has been awesome. You are a wealth of information as always. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your expertise.

Steve: My pleasure, Rich.

Show Notes:

Steve Dottoknows how to create webinars that educate, engage and convert. Check him out if you’re interested in learning how to create your own effective webinars. And if you’re interested in getting an overview of the ever-changing and webinar tools, his weekly webinardedicated to just that is one you won’t want to miss!  Head on over and follow Steve on Twitter.

 

Resources discussed in this episode:

Patreon

GoToWebinar

Infusionsoft

Ontraport

Blue Jeans

Demio

Zoom

Big Marker

Ecamm

 

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conferenceto inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitterto check him out, and he has added “author” to his resume with his book!

 

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